If giving up cigarettes was Joe Califano's first trial with Demon Tobacco, then his second trial just might be his national antismoking campaign.
Joseph A. Califano Jr., erstwhile three-pack-a-day smoker and share-holder in Philip Morris, the cigarette company, is secretary of health, education and welfare.
Even before he announced in January a plan to intensify the government's effort to help the nation kick the cigarette habit, Califano had stirred up a political storm.
The storm is still a storm - tempestuous in proportion now - and the secretary's detractors are urging President Carter to call him off. There is no sign that he is being called off and Califano, for his part, says he does not intend to change his approach.
In fact, Califano said Friday, the last time he and the president discussed the antismoking campaign, "He said, "You're right on track' with it."
But the long knives of the tobacco industry and tobacco-state legislators are out for Califano's scalp and his antismoking campaign is under intense assault on Capitol Hill.
The congressional system is such that legislators from southern tobacco strongholds, lifted to power by seniority, control the levers that will determine ultimately whether Califano gets the money he wants or whether, shall we say, his program goes up in smoke.
Already, they are painting Califano as a dictator, a sort of Crusader Rabbit of the bureaucracy, bent on controlling the minds of little children and imposing his reformist zeal on Americans who are up to here with big brotherism.
For example, Rep. William H. Natcher (D-Ky.), a prominent figure in the House appropriations process, said last week, "This is more federal control . . . people are fed up with Washington meddling in their lives."
A columnist compares Califano to a "federal nanny." In Kentucky, the major burley state, the House of Representatives resolved that he should resign.
Farmers in the state are whispering darkly that the secretary never repaid his student loan (actually, he never had one), a cut intended to show the man for the viper they perceive him to be.
The cigarette industry's highly skilled lobby, the Tobacco Institute, is profoundly worried about Califano's effort, because it has all the earmarks of being the most energetic antismoking blitz ever.
In line with the approach it has taken in the past, the institude challenges the medical evidence offered against tobacco by HEW, professes a deep desire to save consumers from harm and insists that study, rather than emotion, is required.
The Tack being taken by the institute and its allies in Congress now is to channel all of HEW's $29.5 million antismoking effort into research, and divert spending away from a public education effort, aimed at the schools.
"The reason they are so hysterical is that their own ads are directed at children - and they've fought for years not to disclose how much they spend on that." Califano said.
"They say they are for research, but they are trying to block the appropriations for education and [tobacco] addition research."
Tobacco always has stirred a special brand of emotion. It is an immensely valuable commodity and a subject of debate that often defies rational bounds. You smoke it or you don't. You accept the evidence that it is harmful or you don't.
Beyond that, however, its impact on the U.S. economy is enormous: $15 billion in exports. $6 billion in tax revenues $2.3 billion income to an estimated 600,000 people in farm families, mostly in the South. Add to that about $500 million in cigarette advertising and $15.2 billion in sales and you're talking about a lot of money and intersts worth fighting over.
Since 1964, when the first surgeon general's report was issued, warning of the dangerous links between smoking and health, powerful forces have been grappling for the heart and lungs of the public.
Cigarette consumption curves take curious twists, up and down after one scare or another, but Califano and others see an ominous turn in the statistics - fewer adults seem to be smoking than, say, in 1964, but teenagers still are turning onto tobacco.
"Aside from the tremendous numbero of deaths that occur because of smoking. I am concerned about the people who are hooked before they are 21. Education makes a difference . . . We are looking at prevention here and what the federal government can do," Califano said.
The genesis of Califano's campaign, by his own testimony, is not a lust to paint the unwashed with the strokes of his own repentance - a righteous reformed smoker - as his critics maintain.
Rather, he said, it evolves from concepts in HEW about preventive medicine and the rather startling statistical material about the receptivity of young people to the advertising blandishments of the cigarette makers.
"I had no thought about an antismoking campaign when I became secretary. We are looking at prevention and what the federal government can do, the least expensive way to deal with it . . . Every doctor said we should encourage people not to smoke," Califano said.
During recent testimony before a House public health subcommittee, he said the country spent between $5 billion and $7 billion in 1975 to treat smoking-related diseases. As much as $18 billion in worker productivity may have been lost due to absenteeism caused by smoking-related illness, he continued.
But "most troublesome," he said, is that an estimated 4,000 youngsters start smoking every day.
Their chances of becoming thoroughly hooked on cigarettes and later suffering ill health as a result are huge.
Among his statistics, which the critics say are off the wall, are these:
The teenager who becomes a habitual smoker stands a one in 20 chance of developing lung cancer; the nonsmoker's chance is one in 200.
The same smoking teenager has a six in 10 chance of having heart disease; the nonsmoker a three in 10 chance. The smoker has a one in 10 chance of having lung disability; the nonsmoker, a one in 200 chance.
And so it goes, and Califano makes no bones about his intentions with his campaign at HEW: He wants to give young people enough information about tobacco so that when they make a decision about smoking, they'll have a better notion of what they're doing.
"Teenagers often start without the benefit of a fully informed perspective," he said. "Cigarette advertising portrays smoking as attractive and mature . . . All we can do is provide information about the other side. It's one of the most significant things we can do in this country in the area of public health."
At another point in his testimony, Califano said, "Contrary to those who charge that our efforts are somehow an intrusion on individual liberties, I must underscore that our primary goal is to provide information and conduct research that will enhance, not reduce, personal choice.
"If citizens are given all the facts from government or other sources and they still do not wish to give up a personal habit, then, except for protecting the rights of nonsmokers. I think government can properly do no more."
For all the hoorah about Califano's crusade, there are some points worth noting:
Without spending a federal dime, just by raising the issue, Califano has drawn attention to a subject that virtually all medical authorities agree is a pressing and pernicious public health problem. Even his opponents' bumper stickers, which say "Joseph Califano May Be A Hazard to Your Health," keep the issue alive.
As antismoking elements have pointed out, the HEW campaign is neither as new, as massive, as substantive, nor as expensive as some reports have suggested.
The secretary has said repeatedly, and President Carter has reiterated it for him on several occasions, that he has no intention of working for an end to the government price-support program for tobacco growers.
In the tobacco states, the strident anti-Califano reaction seems clearly fueled by uneasiness about price support policies and by a fear that the public generally - aided by Califano's own confusion - misunderstands the issue of subsidies to tobacco farmers.
Califano drew their wrath last year when he suggested that subsidies - that is, the price supports - where wrong. There is a difference between a flat subsidy and the price support program, however, and Califano readily says now that people do not smoke because of the program.
Basically, the program is a government operation, run through a dozen cooperatives. When the grower can't get a "fair" price for his leaf at auction, he can put it on loan - he gets the support price and the co-op takes his tobacco, for later resale to cigarette companies or exporters.
Since it began in 1933, the program has brought stability to the tobacco market and helped thousands of farmers defend themselves against the major buyers, who could otherwise absolutely dictate prices.
Without that program, growers contend, the small family farm would be a thing of the past. Which is, they add, a small price to pay for a support program that has cost taxpayers only $52 million in losses since 1933.
For reference purposes, that $52 million loss is about the price of two Navy F14 fighter planes. Or, in another context, the price support for corn between 1933 and 1969 cost taxpayers $4 billion. And corn, of course, is an ingredient of some alcoholic beverages, another public-health matter altogether. Challenges to corn price supports are heard only faintly.
While Califano is urging other federal agencies and private businesses to review policies related to smoking in public places and while he wants a study of federal taxation and cigarette warning-label policy, very little has happened so far in his campaign.
The guts of it - expenditure of more HEW money - is pending before Congress. And at that, Califano is actually proposing the allocation of only about $9 million more than what HEW currently spends on smoking and health.
HEW would continue to devote most of its requested $29.5 million appropriation to research, investigations into addiction and motivation and behavior of smokers.
Of that amount, $6 million in new money would go toward developing educational materials and $3 million in new money would be added to research. And Califano would return the smoking-and-health office from Atlanta, to which it was exiled during the Nixon years, to a more visible spot in Washington.
The nature of those HEW educatinal materials is not yet clear, but Califano suggests that not all that much new is likely. Rather, there will be more.
"This is already part of the health program in many school systems. Hundreds of schools already teach children about the dangers of smoking . . . This is all going to be voluntary - nobody will have to use any of the materials," he said.
Even that sort of assurance does not quiet the secretary's critics. One of them, Tobacco Institute President Horace Kornegay, a former congressman from North Carolina, leads the charge, suggesting that Califano's next step would be to deny federal funds to schools that rejected the antaismoking materials.
What is all amounts ejected the antismoking materials.
What it all amountsves to coerce, repress and tamper with personal behavior and individual freedom . . . the American people are in no mood to be browbeaten and lectured into following Mr. Califano's crusade."
Califano's response is that 80 percent of the people who smoke want to quit, but can't. Giving up smoking was, he said, "one of the hardest things I myself have ever done." So, he thinks, smokers need more help, more encouragement, more information - that is, more good reasons to stop.
One of the first who'll be in line for help is the secretary's wife, Trudy Califano. She still smokes, would like to quit and, he says, "is working on it."